Autism is developmental disability that occurs sometime in the first three years of a child’s life. Autism affects normal brain functioning which in turn impacts the development of communication and social skills. Autism is labeled as a spectrum disorder. It is a general term that includes some or all characteristics of five disorders in varying degrees. This disorder includes Autistic Disorder (the most prevalent), Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder or Heller’s Syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Otherwise Not Specified. Symptoms of ASDs can include difficulties in (or loss of) verbal and non-verbal communication, reasoning and learning skills, and social interaction. Repetitive behaviors and hyper or hypo sensitivities to environmental sensory stimulus are both prevalent in an ASD diagnosis. Within each of these symptoms there is a differentiating affectedness that ranges from mild to severe.
There are many characteristics of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. A typical impairment lies within the realm of what is considered “normal” social interaction and language. Individuals will find great difficulty with understanding social cues. Examples of this can be not knowing when to move on from a conversation or conversational turn taking, not knowing how to interpret facial expressions/body language, having a narrow set of interests, making eye contact in a conversation, or finding meaning in playing games with others. These social difficulties can also revolve around not being able to infer what others are thinking and seeing things in a black and white mindset. This often leads to only taking things in a literal sense which may make understanding jokes, puns, or metaphors very difficult. Language deficits are also characteristics of Asperger’s. Although a main difference between Autism and Asperger’s is that there is no significant delay in language development with individuals with Asperger’s, there can still be significant problems in language areas. This can include not understanding how to use pitch, stress, or rhythm of speech as neuro-typical speakers will.
Other characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome can consist of displaying ritualized behaviors, having deficits with motor coordination, hypo and hyper sensory issues, displaying a longer thought processing time than someone considered typical, and the need to have a set schedule with a difficulty dealing with change or having flexibility in a routine. Asperger’s as with other Autism Spectrum Disorders have varying degrees of severity with these characteristics or show no signs at all of some of the mentioned characteristics.
A continuum of severity could look similar to this. I believe that due to the spectrum nature of Autism Disorders that there is no great model for a continuum.
Classic Autism, Rett’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Nonverbal or little verbal communication
Low communication skills
Impaired cognitive functioning
No/little eye contact
Medical issues Social Isolation IQ around 70 or below
Higher sensitivity to sensory stimulus
Will need must likely need Speech, Physical and Occupational Therapy Longer information processing time Will need help with Activities of Daily Living Certain concepts are not understood, ex. playing, rules… Moderate Classic Autism, Rett’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, PDD-NOS Little spoken language to advanced communication Understands some “real world” concepts better Makes attempts to seek out friendship Social Impairments/missing certain cues Low eye contact/fleeting contact May use echolalia in language Sensitivity to sensory stimulus Maybe really advanced in some tasks Scheduling/routine issues Up to 100 on IQ level High functioning/Mild Autism Classic Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS High IQ Social awkwardness Make have